By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Renowned as the Bay Area DJ group that raised the bar for hip-hop scratch DJs during the 1990s with their blazing turntable skills, the reunited Invisbl Skratch Piklz play a rare hometown show at the Independent Thursday.
Emerging from the mobile hip-hop DJ culture in San Francisco and Daly City during the late ’80s, founding members Richard Quitelvis (DJ Qbert), Mike Schwartz (Mixmaster Mike) and Apollo Novicio (DJ Apollo) initially joined forces under the projects Shadow of the Prophet and FM2.0 before finally adopting the ISP moniker. Each individual turntablist would also established himself as a force to be reckoned with on the competitive DJ circuit with both Qbert and Mixmaster Mike winning major titles on their own and with a groundbreaking duo routine in 1993. However, it was the ISP’s approach to making music together that found the DJs holding down lead and rhythm parts as well as exploring jazz-influenced call-and-response dialog that elevated the turntable to a musical instrument.
While Apollo would break from the group that same year, the Invisbl Skratch Piklz expanded to include DJ Disk, DJ Shortkut and DJ Flare as members participating in live performances and the studio creation of a string of breakbeat “battle records” (specially designed vinyl used by DJs to compete and develop routines), mixtapes and videos that further cemented the group’s reputation. During the ’90s the individual members would collaborate with other notables in the world of hip hop — Qbert recorded the landmark Dr. Octagon album with producer Dan the Automator and rapper Kool Keith, while Mixmaster Mike joined the Beastie Boys — but continued to work as a collective, bringing on latter day members Yogafrog, D-Styles and A-Trak.
ISP would go into retirement as a collective in 2000 after hosting the day-long conference Skratchcon 2000 that featured performances, demonstrations and panel discussions as well as a screening of Qbert’s then new animated film Wave Twisters before a final set by the Invisbl Skratch Piklz at the Fillmore to close out the associated dance party Thud Rumble. The members continued with their various recording projects, live appearances and DJ product development, but ISP wouldn’t return to the spotlight until a celebrated 2011 reunion at FaderFest in San Francisco featuring Qbert, D-Styles and Shortkut.
The reunion spurred more live appearances and — more importantly — the recording of the first proper ISP studio album. Tracked at a studio in Tokyo, last year’s effort 13th Floor Elevator found the turntable trio exploring new yet familiar ground over the course of nine tracks built from manipulated beats and scratching sounds into subatomic particles. This special performance by the Invisbl Skratch Piklz at the Independent will feature such talented contemporaries as early member DJ Apollo, Cypress Junkies (teaming Cypress Hill percussionist Eric Bobo with DJ Rhettmatic of the Beat Junkies), longtime associated dance crew the Knuckle Neck Tribe and special guests.
Invisbl Skratch Piklz
Thursday, Dec. 28, 9 p.m. $25-$28